Extra maternity leave will cut attrition

An article in Times of India, talks about the recent The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill; along with inputs from Rituparna Chakraborty.
Retention of women employees in the workforce will improve with the passage of the Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha. The bill will more than double paid maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks.

In India, the percentage of women in the workforce declines from 25% at entry level to 16% at mid-level and 4% at top levels. With the amendments identifying the need to allocate additional time to women for child rearing, experts believe this will bring down attrition levels.

Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president of Avtar Group, a leading talent strategy and diversity consulting firms, said, “This will prevent at least 20% of regretted attrition of women in the age group of 25 to 35, being faced by organizations.”

Many progressive companies like Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Flipkart, HCL Technologies, PwC, Accenture, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Godrej and Tata Group voluntarily offer around 6 months of paid maternity leave to employees. The objective is to enhance gender diversity levels. N S Rajan, group executive council member & group chief HR officer, Tata Sons, said, “Our goal is to have 2,30,000 women employees by 2020. We are not just talking of compliance around gender diversity, or a mandate which needs adherence. We are talking of a group-wide commitment to celebrating the importance of gender diversity. Our endeavour is to remove hurdles in the way of career growth of women — be it unconscious bias or policy shortfalls.”

In fact, most companies offer more than the stipulated requirement. At PwC, in case of any medical exigency, an additional four weeks of leave is offered. “We have had examples in our office where women employees, even in client-facing roles, have worked from home for six months at a stretch and have still met all their deliverables,” said Jagjit Singh, chief people officer, PwC India.

Sonali Roychowdhury, head (HR), P&G India, said, “On top of the maternity leave, employees also have an option of adding an additional six weeks of paid vacation leave.”

B P Biddappa, executive director (HR), HUL, said, “It will enable women across India to integrate their personal and professional aspirations. I believe this amendment will help drive family-friendly policies that help women build seamless and satisfying careers.”

Prince Augustin, EVP (group human capital & leadership development), Mahindra & Mahindra, said the company is geared for the stipulated leave as it had recently enhanced its leave beyond the one provided under the Act. The company has also put a ‘work out of home’ policy in place.

However, despite the best efforts, statistics reveal that more than 25% of Indian women in the private sector opt out of their career after child birth. “I’m sure this will facilitate the return of some very capable women back into the corporate corridors after their maternity break,” said Sumit Mitra, head (HR and corporate services), Godrej Industries and associate companies. A major concern, however, is regarding the status quo on parental laws. “The government should have revised parental laws to weed out inherent biases. By not doing so, the message that is going out is ‘child rearing is a woman’s job alone’,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder & senior VP of TeamLease Services.

Another concern is whether the move could be counter-productive with smaller enterprises becoming wary of hiring women. “Only a grand total of 25.5% of all employable women are in the workforce. They would range in the age group of 25 to 60. Of this group, a policy such as this will address itself to about 35% of the leave needs of the population. This shrinks the total number of beneficiaries to a rather small number. On the other hand, if the government were to encourage companies to hire more women by providing incentives for such hiring (a la Japan, which actually gives tax rebates for the hiring of second-career women), you might find the number of 25.5% jumping up by about 10 percentage points,” said Rajesh.

An NSSO report shows that close to 38% of women who are currently in the workforce are employed by small and medium enterprises.

This article was published in Times of India:http://goo.gl/1EFeV1


Namrata Singh

TeamLease Services Ltd

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